The Press Democrat- Gin-based Drinks for a Refreshing Summer

The Press Democrat- Gin-based Drinks for a Refreshing Summer

After a day of tasting wine is there anything more welcoming than an ice-filled gin and tonic? Not a chance. But it’s worth investigating.

The gin and tonic, liquid legacy of British colonialism widely adopted by spirit lovers around the world, is an essential part of summer, designed to refresh and relax.

Gin is essentially the first flavored vodka, a spirit distilled from corn, malted barley, rye or wheat to which are added juniper berries, found prolifically in the Tuscany region of Italy and too bitter to be eaten on their own. During gin’s distillation process, the berries are crushed to release aromatics and flavor.

At Spirit Works Distillery ( at The Barlow center in Sebastopol, distillers Ashby and Timo Marshall source grain from California and Canada to make their own mash, pulverizing the grain into a flour that, after adding water, will be fermented until it produces sugars that will then be distilled into alcohol. All manner of botanicals are then added, from the classic juniper to cardamom and hibiscus, coriander, anise root and angelica.

More rare, Spirit Works makes sloe gin, a nod to Timo’s English provenance, a berry-infused liqueur made by steeping sloe berries in gin, something the English have rustically concocted in their homes for centuries.

At Zazu Kitchen & Farm (, a Barlow neighbor, bar manager Fred Johnson uses the sloe gin to make a Sloe 75 drink, blending it with fresh-squeezed citrus, bitters and a float of sparkling wine for a refreshing aperitif or brunch-time quencher.

Johnson plays with the straight gin to make the Zazu Negroni, combining equal parts Spirit Works Gin, Campari and Vya Sweet Vermouth made in California by Quady Winery.

Zazu co-proprietor and chef Duskie Estes loves supporting fellow denizens of The Barlow.

“It’s a community of makers,” she said. “We’re about connecting with where things are from and about putting a face to food. Spirit Works has the same philosophy.”

For a Sloe Gin Fizz, combine sloe gin with lemon juice, fine sugar, a splash of soda water and, both optional and recommended, fresh egg white. Then shake it all into a frothy drink ready to be poured over ice.

At Solbar in Calistoga ( The Kruger combines gin with Campari, Carpano Antica Vermouth and a squeeze of orange.

Campofina ( in Healdsburg plays with gin in its Cyn-Cyn, mixing it with Cynar liqueur, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, grapefruit and lime juice. They also make a mean Negroni.

Nearby Spoonbar ( has a “Super Secret Shrub” menu where gin is featured in The Savasanna, a red beet shrub blended with St. George Botanivore Gin, cucumber water, pineapple sage, lemon and bergamot essence.

Spoonbar also highlights the spirit in its Old Tom Collins (using Ransom Old Tom Gin), Gin Whey Punch (bergamot-infused gin) and Sloe Gin Fizz (Spirit Works Sloe Gin, lemon, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, egg whites and bitters). The House Gin & Tonic is available on tap, marrying house-made tonic with Fords Gin.

El Dorado Kitchen ( on the Sonoma square shines a light on gin in two memorable cocktails: Temporal Stasis (Nocino, Campari, gin, rhubarb bitters) and A Vague Recollection (lychee, lemongrass, rosemary, lime, gin).

Meanwhile, in downtown Napa, The Thomas ( is where it’s best to think about having the house Negroni On Tap (Beefeater Gin, Campari, Rosso Vermouth), Gin & Tonic (Beefeater Gin, house-made tonic water, pineapple ice spear) or Clover Leaf (Fords Gin, raspberry, lemon, mint, aleppo pepper, egg white).

The indoor bar at Bardessono ( in Yountville takes things up a notch in its Sip Slow, Sipsmith Gin with Calisaya liqueur, blueberry, grapefruit and Negroni ice cubes. Impressive.

Virginie Boone is a freelance wine writer based in Sonoma County. She can be reached at and followed on Twitter @vboone.

See the story in The Press Democrat here